We are very excited to bring you What Is It? Wednesdays! Every other Wednesday, we’ll explore a different ingredient or product in depth. We’ll be covering the benefits, uses, and common misconceptions about each. If you have any requests, leave them in the comments and we’ll work them into the schedule.
Coconut is all the rage these days—coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut sugar—if it has coconut in it, it must be good for you. For the most part that is true, and coconut flour is no exception. It's tremendously rich in dietary fiber and very low in carbohydrates. These two factors combine to make a product that is especially ideal for those who need to be conscious of their blood sugar and who are following a low carbohydrate diet. It's naturally gluten free, so it's becoming very popular with those on a gluten free diet. But this is one of the most difficult and confusing Bob's Red Mill products to use. It's not impossible and it is totally worth learning how to use, but this product does not behave like a typical flour and presents some unique challenges in baking.
How is it made? Coconut flour is made from the flesh of mature coconuts after coconut oil has been extracted. The remaining coconut contains only about 15% of the oil from the original coconut. The flesh is dried at temperatures above 118°F to eliminate any microbes and is held at 179°F for approximately 30 minutes, which means this product is not considered raw by most raw foodists.
Does it taste like coconut? Because there is no milk and most of the oils have been removed, coconut flour does not have a strong coconut flavor. I'd be lying if I said it was void of any coconut flavor, but it is quite mild and would be masked by any strong flavor like chocolate, coffee, garlic, or almond. It's similar to coconut oil, actually. There is a hint of the coconut, but it's not like baking with ground up shredded coconut.
Does it contain sulfites? No. I cannot vouch for all coconut flour, but our coconut flour does not contain sulfites or any other preservatives.
How do you use it? That's the real meat of the issue, isn't it? How do you use such a unique flour? The single most important thing to remember about coconut flour is that it is very high in fiber and requires a lot of liquid. More than you would think, actually. If you look at coconut flour recipes, they often call for a lot of eggs (I'm talking 6 to 8 whole eggs for a single recipe). At first glance, you'll think it's an error and it can't possibly need that many eggs. The thing is, though, it really does. The eggs help replace the gluten and balance out the high amount of fiber. If you are egg-free, try The Spunky Coconut. She has many recipes that are egg-free.
You'll be relieved to know that there are so many wonderful food bloggers out there experimenting with this product and finding ways around the use of a dozen eggs for a single recipe. They're getting creative and coming up with recipes like Chocolate Glazed Strawberry Donuts (Cara's Cravings), Chocolate Marbled Cupcakes (Jeanette's Healthy Living), and Vanilla Coconut Poundcake (Non-Dairy Queen).
Here are tips from our Test Kitchen:
- Store coconut flour in the fridge or freezer for the longest shelf life.
- Coconut flour can replace up to 20% of the total flour in a recipe. Liquid will need to be increased by 20% as well.
- It is recommended that you use an equal part coconut flour to liquid.
- Coconut flour is very high in fiber and will absorb large amounts of liquid. These batters may not resemble the same batter made with wheat flour.
- Increasing the fat in a 100% coconut flour recipe will keep the product moist without having to add excessive amounts of liquid.
- Some 100% coconut flour recipes may appear too runny. Let the batter sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. The liquid will be absorbed further during baking.
- Reducing the sugar or granulated sweetener will make the final product drier and crumbly.
- Always sift coconut flour before using.
- To store baked goods with significant amounts of coconut flour, wrap loosely in plastic. If no air is allowed to circulate, the baked good may become soggy.
My single tip for getting to know coconut flour? TRY AN EXISTING COCONUT FLOUR RECIPE. Don't reinvent the wheel. Use a tried and true recipe. We have several recipes with coconut flour on our website, and there are so many amazing bloggers out there doing a great job with it. Check out All Day I Dream About Food, Jeanette's Healthy Living, Cara's Cravings, and The Spunky Coconut for some inspiration.
Finally, find more great tips from Jeanette's Healthy Living and watch this video for even more insight.
Finally, we received some great customer questions on Facebook and I'll try to address some of them here. These are the questions that I wasn't sure how to work into the narrative.
Coconut flour and browning: Some customers have found that baked goods made with coconut flour brown more easily. While we have not found this to be true here, we think this could have something to do with the natural sugar in the flour.
Coconut flour is gluten free, do I need to use xanthan gum? Yes and no. If you are baking a 100% coconut flour recipe with a bevy of eggs, it is likely that you will not need xanthan gum. If you are adding coconut flour to a gluten free blend or are not using a recipe heavy in eggs, xanthan gum might be necessary.
How many carbs does it contain per serving? A 2 tablespoon serving of coconut flour contains 8 grams of carbohydrates (3 grams net carbs). Keep in mind that you use far less coconut flour than conventional wheat flour in recipes.
I have a coconut allergy, will I react to coconut flour? Unlike coconut oil, coconut flour contains coconut protein and will cause an allergic reaction if you are sensitive to coconut.